Review: City of Thieves by David Benioff

Summary (from Goodreads):

As wise and funny as it is thrilling and original—the story of two young men on an impossible adventure.

A writer visits his retired grandparents in Florida to document their experience during the infamous siege of Leningrad. His grandmother won’t talk about it, but his grandfather reluctantly consents. The result is the captivating odyssey of two young men trying to survive against desperate odds.

Lev Beniov considers himself “built for deprivation.” He’s small, smart, and insecure, a Jewish virgin too young for the army, who spends his nights working as a volunteer firefighter with friends from his building. When a dead German paratrooper lands in his street, Lev is caught looting the body and dragged to jail, fearing for his life. He shares his cell with the charismatic and grandiose Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested on desertion charges. Instead of the standard bullet in the back of the head, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt to find the impossible. A search that takes them through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and the devastated surrounding countryside creates an unlikely bond between this earnest, lust-filled teenager and an endearing lothario with the gifts of a conman. Set within the monumental events of history, City of Thieves is an intimate coming-of-age tale with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.


Okay, so there have been many stories written about WWII, and the point of view has usually been from Holocaust survivors. This novel looks at WWII from the point of view of a young man from Russia as he struggles to survive during a time of deprivation and fear.

I really enjoyed this mostly because it was not set in Germany, and because there are light, even funny moments as Lev and Kolya are sent on a mission to find a dozen eggs.This is really a coming of age story, and it’s beautifully told with the grand expanse of the Russian landscape serving as the backdrop.

This is a unique look at a horrific moment in human history. Very much enjoyed it.


2 thoughts on “Review: City of Thieves by David Benioff

  1. It is a wonderful book, and I think you’d like it. There’s a bitter-sweet ending, which didn’t sit well with me only because of how it happens. Having said that, the rest of the novel is very good.


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